East Cowes Castle

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East Cowes Castle, 1824
John Nash

East Cowes Castle, located in East Cowes, was the home of architect John Nash between its completion and his death in 1835. Nash himself was the designer of the site, and began construction as early as 1798. It was completed in 1800[1] and was said to have been built at unlimited expense.[2] Nash was finally interred in the grounds.

The structure gained renown for its complex castellation, its gothic-style turrets and towers, which were built in the style of the period of Edward VI,[3] and for the notable individuals who came to be Nash's guests there, including the Prince Regent, who went on to become King George IV and J.M.W. Turner, who painted a picture of the location.

On Nash's death, the estate was sold to the Earl of Shannon who added a lodge at the south of the estate. Its last resident, the World War II commander Field Marshal John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort purchased the estate in 1902.

The castle was lent to the British Army during the Second World War, under whose use the condition of the building suffered greatly; and due to subsequent neglect and deterioration, the castle was finally demolished in 1960. John Nash's original North Lodge and an original icehouse survive and the castle's clock remains on display at the Carisbrooke Castle Museum.

Although East Cowes Castle no longer exists, there is an exact copy of the original castle called Lough Cooter Castle, near Gort, County Galway. For the circumstances concerning its creation, see the paragraph below.[4]


The castle apartments, described as a marine mansion in 1842, contained one square and two circular embattled towers.[5] It was said to be lofty and expensively finished, containing a dining room, drawing room, a library, a billiard room, an octagon library, numerous principal and secondary bedchambers, servants apartments, offices of every description, with ample stabling and coachhouses. There were also splendid conservatories, a picture gallery, gardens of superior order and hothouses.

The grounds were said to be of around 43 acres (60 acres in 1835)[6] and were beautifully undulated, with gardens, lodges and paddocks, laid out in the 'first style', with terraces embellished with noble timber plantations of luxuriant growth, through which walks and carriage drives of considerable extent had been cut.[7]

Lough Cooter Castle[edit]

This exact copy of the original East Cowes Castle was built on Lough Cooter, County Galway in 1814. As described, East Cowes Castle was originally designed, built and owned by the famous architect John Nash, who was the protegé of the Prince Regent, who was to become King George IV.

The circumstances surrounding its creation was that Charles Vereker, 2nd Viscount Gort happened to visit East Cowes Castle, along with the Prince Regent. Viscount Gort said to Nash that he wished he could transport East Cowes Castle to Lough Cooter, a lake near Gort, County Galway. Nash said that he would do it for him, for a price of £50,000; and an agreement was made. Nash therefore built an exact copy of East Cowes Castle there for him, although the cost was finally put at around £70,000.

Lough Cooter Castle became the seat of the Gort family, although they were forced to sell the castle due to the great Irish famine of 1846.[8] However, by a strange turn of events, East Cowes Castle itself eventually came into the ownership of the Gort family, when the Viscount's son, John Vereker, 3rd Viscount Gort, acquired it by marrying Elizabeth Tudor.[9] The story has it that he had no idea that East Cowes Castle was identical to his Lough Cooter Castle, until she took him down to the Isle of Wight to see it. He was said to have been in quite a state of shock when he saw it and was led around the inside, already knowing its layout.[10]

Like East Cowes Castle, Lough Cooter Castle was used to billet troops during the Second World War. And like East Cowes Castle, it almost became derelict as a result of it. However, its fate proved to be better and it has now been restored, being quoted as being one of the most remarkable properties in Ireland. It is now occupied and in private ownership, although it can be hired for weddings and other special events.[11]

Owners of East Cowes Castle[edit]

John Nash (1798 - 1835)[edit]

The Right Honourable Henry Boyle, 3rd Earl of Shannon (1836 - 1842)[edit]

Henry Boyle bought East Cowes Castle in February 1836 for twenty thousand guineas.[12]

Following the 3rd Earl's death in 1842, his son shipped all of the castle's "splendid furniture and appointments" back to the family seat in Castlemartyr, Cork, so that the 'marine villa' could be let out.[13] For some years, the castle was let to Nathaniel Barwell Esq, a gentleman of 'great opulence'.[14]

In 1844, a steeple chase challenge was made between Barwell's horse and a Mr Jacobs of Chale's chestnut. The winner was the first horse to reach the gate of the newly built racecourse. The race was won by Mr Barwell.[15]

In 1852, the castle was occupied by Mr Charles Sawyer esq.[16]

In 1855, during a severe thunder storm, a bolt of lightening hit the castle and entered one of the rooms. The only damage caused was the breaking of three dozen panes of glass and scaring the plumbers and workmen working their out of their wits.[17]

Mr George & Mrs Elizabeth Mary Tudor (1853 - 1861)[edit]

It was reported that the castle was finally sold in 1853 for £12,500, considerably less than its earlier sale in 1836.[18] George Tudor was a Member of parliament for Barnstaple in 1830.[19] However, he didn't have long to enjoy the castle, dying in 1857.[20] His widow, Elizabeth Mary Tudor, was the only daughter and heiress of Mr John Jones esq.[21] She remained at the castle, along with continuing to own their main residence at No. 1, Portman Square, London.[22]

The Right Honourable Viscount Gort & Lady Elizabeth Mary Gort (1861 - 1880)[edit]

In 1861, John Vereker, 3rd Viscount Gort married the widowed Mrs Tudor, whom he had met in Paris[23] and thus became the new lord of East Cowes Castle.[24] However, he died in 1865, at the age of 75.

Viscount Gort held the office of Member of Parliament for Limerick between 1817 and 1820. He was also Mayor of Limerick between 1831 and 1832. He became the 3rd Viscount Gort of County Galway and the 3rd Baron Kiltarton of Gort. He also held the office of Representative Peer of Ireland between June 1865 and October 1865.[25]

In January 1876, the Dowager Viscountess Gort was honoured with a visit to East Cowes Castle by Queen Victoria and the Princess Beatrice. Prince Leopold was also in attendance.[26]

Lady Gort died in October 1880 at the age of 89, after an illness of only a few days.[27] She left £140,000 in her will. The majority of her estate went to her stepson, Viscount Gort, although she also left £1,000 to the parish of East Cowes, to found a coal, food and clothing fund, to be distributed to the poor of East Cowes at Christmas.[28]

Standish Prendergast Vereker, 4th Viscount Gort (1880 - 1895)[edit]

Inheriting the castle in 1880, Viscount Gort was married to Caroline Harriet Gage, daughter of Henry Gage, 4th Viscount Gage. He held the office of High Sheriff in 1843 and gained the rank of Honorary Colonel in the service of the 4th Brigade, South Irish Division, Royal Artillery. He also held the office of Justice of the Peace for County Galway and succeeded as the 4th Baron Kiltarton of Gort and 4th Viscount Gort.[29]

John Gage Prendergast Vereker, 5th Viscount Gort (1895 – 1902)[edit]

It was reported in 1895 that the castle had been given away as a Christmas gift to John Vereker, by his father. He would later become 5th Viscount Gort and it was intended that East Cowes Castle would become his seaside residence. His wife, Eleanor Surtees, was the heiress of novelist Robert Smith Surtees and owner of Hamsterley Hall, near Newcastle Upon Tyne.[30]

Like his father, Vereker was in the service of the 4th Brigade, South Irish Division, Royal Artillery, gaining the rank of Captain. He also held the office of Justice of the Peace for the Isle of Wight, as well as Justice of the Peace for County Durham, He succeeded as the 5th Viscount Gort as well as the 5th Baron Kiltarton of Gort.[31]

Viscount Gort died in 1902, leaving £79,000 in his will. This included giving his wife Eleanor, use of East Cowes Castle for the rest of her life, although ownership of the castle was to be held in trust for his second son, the future 7th Viscount Gort. He left his Tottenham Court Road estate and his house at No. 1, Portman Road, London in trust for his eldest son, the new 6th Viscount Gort.[32]

Lady Gort retained ownership of Hamsterley Hall in her own right.[33] She went on to marry Colonel Starling Meux Benson, formerly of the 17th Lancers,[34] in 1908. Both she and her new husband died in 1933.[35]

John Vereker, 6th Viscount Gort (1902 - 1937)[edit]

Despite the will of his father, East Cowes Castle ultimately came into the 6th Viscount's ownership. Field Marshal The Right Honourable Viscount Gort VC, GCB, CBE, DSO & Two Bars, MVO, MC was a decorated war hero.

Viscount Gort sold East Cowes Castle in 1937.[36]


Coordinates: 50°45′25″N 1°16′51″W / 50.75694°N 1.28083°W / 50.75694; -1.28083

  1. ^ The Sphere dated 03 December 1949, Page 28
  2. ^ Morning Post dated 27 June 1842, Page 1
  3. ^ Morning Post dated 27 June 1842, Page 1
  4. ^ Portsmouth Evening News dated 26 August 1902, Page 3
  5. ^ Hampshire Advertiser dated 25 October 1845, Page 7
  6. ^ Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser dated 25 July 1835, Page 1
  7. ^ Morning Post dated 27 June 1842, Page 1
  8. ^ Yorkshire Evening Post dated 10 July 1940, Page 4
  9. ^ Portsmouth Evening News dated 26 August 1902, Page 3
  10. ^ Portsmouth Evening News dated 14 May 1935, Page 7
  11. ^ http://www.abandonedireland.com/LoughCutra.html
  12. ^ Dorset County Chronicle dated 11 February 1836, Page 3
  13. ^ Weekly Freeman's Journal dated 18 June 1842, Page 8
  14. ^ Western Courier, West of England Conservative, Plymouth and Devonport Advertiser dated 17 November 1852, Page 5
  15. ^ Hampshire Advertiser dated 30 March 1844, Page 8
  16. ^ Shipping and Mercantile Gazette dated 21 January 1852, Page 1
  17. ^ Hampshire Advertiser dated 29 December 1855, Page 7
  18. ^ Isle of Wight Observer dated 30 July 1853, Page 3
  19. ^ Hampshire Advertiser dated 13 October 1880, Page 3
  20. ^ Morning Chronicle dated 28 December 1857, Page 8
  21. ^ Morning Post dated 14 October 1880, Page 5
  22. ^ Dublin Evening Mail dated 13 June 1861, Page 3
  23. ^ Portsmouth Evening News dated 14 May 1935, Page 7
  24. ^ Dublin Evening Mail dated 13 June 1861, page 3
  25. ^ http://thepeerage.com/p4626.htm#i46255
  26. ^ Glasgow Herald dated 25 January 1876, Page 4
  27. ^ Hampshire Advertiser dated 13 October 1880, Page 3
  28. ^ Manchester Courier and Lancashire General Advertiser dated 07 January 1881, Page 3
  29. ^ http://thepeerage.com/p4627.htm#i46261
  30. ^ Portsmouth Evening News dated 04 January 1895, Page 3
  31. ^ http://thepeerage.com/p4626.htm#i46257
  32. ^ Weekly Irish Times dated 22 November 1902, Page 24
  33. ^ Walsall Advertiser dated 27 December 1902, Page 3
  34. ^ The Scotsman dated 01 March 1933, Page 10
  35. ^ http://thepeerage.com/p4626.htm#i46257
  36. ^ Portsmouth Evening News dated 17 December 1937, Page 12